Ukraine used cardboard drones to destroy $100m fighter jets in Russia

Five military aircraft – a Mig-29 and four Su-30 fighter jets, which cost about $20 million apiece were destroyed during the attack last weekend on an airfield in Kursk, in western Russia, Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU) said. Two Pantsir missile launchers and a S-300 air defence system’s radar are also believed to have been damaged in the strike.

Incredibly, it’s believed that the attack was carried out using flat-packed drones made from cardboard. The drones, which cost just $3,500 (£2,750), are understood to have been manufactured by Australian firm SPYAQ.

The Australian government promised to supply Ukraine with 100 of the drones a month, in a deal worth $20 million (£15.7 million). The government said the drones would provide “a battlefield intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capability”.

But it would appear Ukraine is now using drones as effective weapons. The SPYAQ drones, which have a wingspan of around six feet, can carry up to five kilograms of cargo.

Read more… Drone strikes hit Russian microchip factory at heart of Putin’s war machine

The Australian Army’s retired Major General Mick Ryan said it would be easy to adapt SPYAQ drones to carry munitions. The Afghanistan veteran said their lightweight nature made them well-suited to breach Russia’s air defence systems.

A SYPAQ spokesman declined to comment on how the drones are being used by the Ukrainian armed forces, reported the Sydney Morning Herald.

On the attack that reportedly destroyed $100m of fighter jets in Kursk, an unnamed SBU officer told the Kyiv Post 16 drones had been launched at the target – with only three being shot down by Russian defences. Russia’s defence ministry has acknowledged the attack.

And, in his Telegram channel, a former Russian fighter pilot known as Fighterbomber said that the drones used in the attack included the lightweight SPYAQ craft.

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The post read: “Tonight, [Ukrainians] used them in a swarm, mixing drones with warheads with empty drones. I don’t know exactly what engines were on the drones, but if they were electric-powered, then they were not launched from Ukraine.”

Ukraine’s ambassador to Australia, Vasyl Myroshnychenko, said the Kursk airfield was a “legitimate target”. He said: “Russia uses that airport to launch military operations and send missiles into Ukraine.”

It is not yet known if SYPAQ’s drones, which are made from waxed cardboard and rubber, were used again last night and this morning (Wednesday, August 30) when waves of drones attacked multiple Russian regions in what is believed to have been the “the biggest-ever drone attack on Russian soil”.

The most recent attacks, described as “extraordinary” by a former Nato official, set ablaze another airfield – and destroyed four huge Il-76 aircraft, according to Russian state media.

Former Nato official Edward Hunter-Christie has said the attacks prove “the air war is now genuinely mutual”.

He tweeted: “It is a long night. But to think that the air war is now genuinely mutual, and on the Ukrainian side based solely on Ukrainian-made systems, is extraordinary. Russia has lost the initiative and the ability to shape events in every domain. Ukraine is gaining both, in all domains.”

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